Tadeusz Sawicz, thought to be the last surviving Polish Battle of Britain airman, died on October 19th, 2011at the age of 97. Sawicz fought against the Germans as an airman in the Nazi attacks on Poland in September 1939, the Battle of France (April/May 1940) and the Battle of Britain. Sawicz remained in the RAF until 1947.
Tadeusz Sawicz was born in Warsaw on February 13th, 1914. He initially joined the Polish Army but trained to be a pilot at the Air Force Cadet Officers School at Deblin. On September 1st 1939, Poland felt the full force of Blitzkrieg – Lightening War. Sawicz was attached to 114 Fighter Flight of No 1 Air Wing. He took on the might of the Luftwaffe in a Polish Air Force biplane. He shot down a Me-109 on the first day of the campaign. Over the next few days Sawicz shot down two German bombers and damaged two more. However, it was clear that the Polish military as an entity could not cope with the mass of the Nazi military. On September 17th he flew with his squadron to Rumania and by early October 1939 he and his men were in France where he joined Groupe de Chasse III/10 and fought in the Battle of France. When France surrendered, Sawicz and many other Polish pilots flew to the comparative safety of Algiers before making arrangements to get to Britain. Sawicz arrived in Britain on July 7th 1940 and joined Fighter Command.
He was given a swift course in how to fly the Hawker Hurricane before joining No 303 Squadron, one of two Polish fighter squadrons attached to Fighter Command. He flew patrols from Leconfield in Yorkshire during the Battle of Britain. Immediately after the Battle of Britain, Sawicz stayed with No 303 Squadron before transferring to No 316 Squadron that was based in South Wales. Sawicz got the squadron’s first confirmed kill when he shot down a He-III.
As the World War Two progressed Sawicz took command of 315 Squadron (September 1942). He was engaged in fighter escort missions, frequently escorting US bombers from the USAAF 8th Air Force on its missions over Europe. In April 1943, Sawicz was promoted to deputy commander of No 1 (Polish) Fighter Wing based at Northolt. In March 1944 Sawicz was attached to the US 9th Air Force before he joined the 56th Fighter Group and flew the P-47 Thunderbolt. In late 1944, Sawicz was appointed wing leader of 131 (Polish) Fighter Wing, which flew Spitfires. Sawicz and his men flew missions over France, Belgium and the Netherlands to give air support to the men on the ground. He was seriously injured in an accident on the ground but returned to flying in January 1945.
After the war, Sawicz commanded 133 Wing before leaving the Royal Air Force in January 1947. He emigrated to Canada in 1957 and worked in the aircraft industry.
Tadeusz Sawicz was awarded numerous gallantry awards in recognition of his achievements. The RAF awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC); the Polish awarded him with the Cross of Valour (Krzyz Walecznch) four times and the Virtuti Militari, Poland’s highest military honour; the Americans awarded him the DFC (US) and the US Air Medal and the Dutch government awarded him the Vlieger Cruis (the Dutch DFC).
In 2006, Tadeusz Sawicz was given the honorary rank of Brigadier-General in the Polish Air Force on the orders of Lech Kaczynski, Poland’s President.